You will probably notice that some of the candy in Japan contains milk. Vegans also need to check for things like gelatine (ゼラチン) and animal-derived food colouring (e.g. ラック or lac, which is from the lac insect).
However there is a lot of interesting vegan candy in Japan (of course there is always a question about whether the sugar was refined using animal bone char and whether the colouring agents were tested on animals). Let’s have a look and some of the common types of candy in Japan.
First, a couple that appear to be vegan, but which aren’t. They contain lac as a colouring agent.
• Hana Akari – Flower Shaped Dry Candy (落雁 – Rakugan). Ingredients: Wasanbon (fine-grained Japanese) sugar, starch, colouring (lac).
• Kasugai Konpeitō. Ingredients: Sugar, colouring (lac, yellow 4, yellow 5, blue 1).
In Japan, some types of candy that would ordinarily contain gelatine contain agar (寒天- kanten) instead. For example the fruit jellies below. However it seems that many jelly beans made using agar also contain lactose, so are not vegan.
• Fruits Up Jelly. Ingredients: Sugar, starch syrup, agar, oligosaccharide, starch, flavouring, colouring (red 102, yellow 4, yellow 5, blue 1, blue 2). Note: It is not known whether the flavouring is vegan.
There is also a lot of hard candy that appears to be vegan. For example the ones below made with red bean paste:
• Candy Daifuku. Ingredients: Sugar, starch syrup, red bean paste, emulsifier, salt. Note: Contains soy (it appears the emulsifier is soy derived).
• Anko Candy. Ingredients: Sugar, starch syrup, red bean paste, vegetable oil, salt.
There are also interesting candies like the sweet potato candy below. The first one was purchased from a store that was part of a vegan restaurant, but the second one was just in a 100 yen store.
• Sweet Potato Candy. Ingredients: Sweet potato, sweet potato starch, malt, roasted barley flour.
• Sweet Potato Candy (Kagoshima). Ingredients: Sweet potato starch (maltose), malt syrup, sugar, roasted barley flour.
The candies below may be vegan, although it is not known whether the amino acid (and any other seasonings) are animal derived.
• Five House Heritage Candy. Ingredients: Soy flour (non-genetically modified soy beans), sugar, starch syrup, glutinous rice, wheat flour, corn starch, peanuts, vegetable oil, seasoning (amino acid etc), colouring (blue 1, yellow 4).